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Comparison Of A Dolls House And Antigone English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1394 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The entrance, exit and overall presence of the two catalysts in the plays differ according to the structure of the play. In A Doll’s House, Mrs. Linde makes a very subtle entry into the play in the midst of a conversation in the first act which dilutes the effect of her entrance. Furthermore, her actual physical appearance is prolonged by the conversation and actions of Nora and Helmer which attenuates the effect of her entrance. Her mild entrance foreshadows the gentleness with which she effects a change in the play. Mrs. Linde presence throughout the play is required for the metamorphosis and the introspective process of Nora’s character. In Antigone, Tiresias makes a very dramatic entrance in the beginning of the act and is present only for that act. This is a complete deviation from traditional Greek plays since conventionally, important characters were usually present for large portions of the plays which can be seen by Mrs. Linde’s continual presence in A Doll’s House. Clearly, his brief presence in the play in catalysing the denouement is as effective as Mrs. Linde permanent presence in the play. Structurally Mrs. Lnde is an indispensible part of the play for she appears in crucial parts as a “pacifier”. Nora says ” Now I shall tell you what we ought to do? As soon as Christmas is over – (ring at the bell)” [3] thus signalling Mrs. Linde’s entrance which rescues Nora from telling Helmer the truth. A similar function is performed by Tireasis whose appearance during the climax of the play mirrors that of Mrs. Linde. By eliminating the ambiguity in the minds of the audience regarding the morality of Creon’s decision he is the ‘pacifier’ to the audience. The ambiguity occurs due to the opposing views of Antigone, Ismene and Haemon versus Creon. Tiresias’ very first line is full of wisdom and this immediately establishes the authority of his character to the audience. Mrs Linde in contrast, follows the theatrical convention of initially speaking in inconsequential sentences. In terms of their exits, Mrs. Linde makes a very subtle exit while Tiresias makes a dramatic exit. Thus, the two catalysts show overall consistency; Mrs. Linde remains subtle throughout the play to retain focus on Nora while Tiresias is dramatic throughout the act in order to enhance the climax.

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The choice of the catalysts in each play is dependent on the main character and the culture of that era. Ibsen justifies his choice of making Mrs. Linde the catalyst by making her a stereotypical middle-class woman of that period thus representing the traditions of the society and allowing the audience to relate to her. Societal norm dictated that Nora confide in a member of the same sex as a male confidante might not sympathise with Nora’s plight or might attempt to take advantage of her situation. In addition, this would have added to the controversy, making the play less realistic. The controversial ending necessitates the presence of a conventional character to support Nora’s actions. Sophocles justifies his choice of Tireasis as a catalyst due to authority of his character, which can be attributed to the godlike precision of his predictions. Following the convention of the Theban era, wherein every play had a renowned seer, the dramatist uses the uniqueness of Tiresias’s character to resolve the complication. Furthermore, Tiresias’ level of authority allows him to influence Creon and the Chorus, thus influencing the audience. Nora would only relate to someone who had made sacrifices as herself, in this case Mrs. Linde. Similarly Creon would only listen to someone who had an equal authority as him and in this case it is Tireasis whose authority is based on knowledge. Thus, the stereotypical Mrs. Linde forms a foil to Nora, portraying her suffering, while Tiresias, the unique character forms a foil to Creon in portraying his obstinacy. This portrayal helps in intensifying the complication thus leading to the denouement.

The catalyst’s use of language while conversing with the main characters of each play is different. In A Doll’s House, Mrs.Linde’s use of everyday language and moderate tone along with dramatist’s choice of keeping intimate conversations between them private allows Nora to speak her mind freely thus making her thoughts clear to the audience. In Antigone, Tiresias initially advises Creon in a cautionary tone using descriptive language and visual imagery. He says “An oozing moisture dripped from the thigh-pieces onto the embers,”. [4] He questions Creon “What valour is there in killing the dead again?” [5] Mrs. Linde also utilises introspective questions like “Behind your husband’s back?” [6] to help Nora. Her mildly authoritative tone is only used at specific times like when she says “But you must tell Torvald”. [7] This prompts Nora’s quest for personal identity leading to denouement, the spectacle of the play. Creon’s defiance makes him blunt and straightforward causing Tiresias’ to speak in a forceful tone using stichomythia to influence Creon. He uses a series of long sentences to express his fury at Creon’s insolence; he says, “Such arrows have I fired like an archer at your heart, in anger, for you have provoked me”. [8] Tiresias makes his disapproval of Creon’s actions blatantly clear in the presence of the Chorus. Contrary to the seclusion used in A Doll’s House, the open presence of chorus in Antigone helps the dramatist to resolve the complication and convince the audience.

The two plays show unity of time, place and action. Mrs. Linde helps Nora do what should have been done years earlier while Tiresias helps to clarify the situation within moments of his arrival. Thus, the two catalysts speed up action causing unity of time. By helping to maintain unity of time, place and action, the catalysts ensure that the focus of the play remains on the main characters and hence the main complication. This helps the dramatists to communicate the main message of the play, thus fulfilling the purpose of the play.

While Mrs. Linde shows the audience why Nora is ethically right, Tiresias shows the audience why Creon is ethically wrong and deserves to face the consequences of his actions. Mrs. Linde does not directly instruct Nora to abandon her family but she does order Nora to tell him the truth. Indirectly, she is the trigger behind Nora’s actions. Tiresias also does not directly condone Antigone’s rebellious actions. He shows Creon to be clearly wrong but does not show Antigone to be clearly right. I think the dramatists chose to have the catalysts discretely support the female protagonist to maintain a level of credibility with the audience. It also helps to make the two plays more realistic since in those times, characters like Mrs. Linde and Tiresias would not be expected to be in complete agreement with the controversial actions of the female protagonists. By reflecting the ideas of the societies of that time and still covertly supporting the female protagonists, the catalysts help the audience to reach the same conclusion on their own.

Both the catalysts create alternative paths for the main characters. For Nora, it is the path of independence while for Antigone it is the path of justice. Additionally, Creon goes on a path of self-realization and repentance. The new paths of the female protagonists represent a new perspective for the women of that era.


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